The Dye Clan
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  • TR: Jun 2012
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Mammoth Lava Tubes

Inside the largest lava tube at Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Lava Tubes are a series of lava tubes over 2,100 feet long. They are well known and easy to get to, which makes them extremely popular. The largest lava tube is closed in the winter to protect hibernating bats.

Trip Report: June 8, 2012


Mammoth Lava Tubes at EveryTrail

Mammoth Lava Tubes (Mammoth Cave) is located north of Duck Creek Village in southern Utah midway between Zion, Bryce, and Cedar Breaks. Access is on paved roads except for the last 3 miles, which is on nice dirt roads. We were coming from the north, and there were nice signs pointing the way.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Our gps tried to send us on some roads that didn't exist. To be safe, just follow the signs that say "Mammoth Cave".

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
The bathroom.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Information kiosk.

The sign reads:

Welcome to Mammoth Cave!

This popular cave was formed by cooling lava and water. It has five entrances and over 2,100 feet of passages.

Mammoth Cave is a popular recreation site with forest visitors. The cave is also frequented by seven species of bats, including two state sensitive species of bats - the Townsend's Big-eared Bad and Fringed Myotis. Other species of bats observed at Mammoth Cave include the Long-eared Myotis, Big Brown bat, Long-legged Myotis, Western Small-footed Myotis, and the Hoary Bat.

Mammoth Cave serves as an important summertime feeding and night roost area for bats, but it is especially important as a winter refuge for hibernating Townsend's Big-eared bats. In Utah, these bats usually hibernate singly or in very small groups (<5), with fewer than 20 per cave. This cave, however, routinely shelters 60 of these bats each winter - one of the largest known aggregations in the state! Although bats and people can coexist in most instances, wintertime caving can disturb hibernating bats. If disturbed too often, hibernating bats may die.

Human visitation to Mammoth Cave during the winter months is increasing. This puts hibernating bats at great risk. To protect these bats, gates ahve been installed across the entrances to the cave's largest tube. The gate is locked and the rest of the cave is closed to humans during the winter months (October-April) to provide protection for hibernating bats when they are particularly vulnerable to disturbances. It is left oven for visitor access the rest of the year.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

You park literally on top of one of the lava tunnels.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
This is the upper entrance, which gives easy access to Tube 2.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
The main entrance.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
This picture was taken from down in the main entrance. Mammoth cave splits into 4 lava tubes.

Tube 1 is the largest tunnel.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
This gate was installed in 2004 to protect hibernating bats. It has a removable gate to allow visitors to explore Mammoth Cave from May-September.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
The ceiling height allows you to walk upright the whole way.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Tube 1 is quite cold and has lots of ice in it.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Here's Jeremy holding some ice chunks that were on the floor.

Near the end of the tunnel, the passage gets pretty tight.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

After crawling through about 10 feet of breakdown, you can see daylight through another gate.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
This gate marks the end of tube 1.

For size:

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Right next to the gate, there are some holes that look promising. I crawled into them, but they didn't go very far.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

There was a path that looked like it led somewhere, so we followed it.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

We were hoping it would lead to another lava tube, but it just spat us out in a lava flow.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes

Near the end of Tube 1 is the second exit to Tube 2.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Tube 2 exit from the outside.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
This is Tube 2 Exit 2 from the inside.

I followed Tube 2 without Tara. This lava tube is a lot shorter than Tube 1, so you have to hunch over most of the time.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Here's the first exit for Tube 2 from the inside.

Tara was walking back above ground, so I handed her the camera to take a picture of me poking my head up like a groundhog.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Unlike Tube 1, which has a very rocky floor, Tube 2 is very smooth for most of it.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

There are a couple of crawls (knee pads were nice).

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes

And that concluded our exploration on Friday night. We set up camp in the parking area and took some pictures of the trees after the sun went down.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

The next morning, we looked for the other passages. We followed an obvious trail to the southwest and ended up at the exit to Tube 3.

Tara was 6 months pregnant and didn't feel like doing any belly crawls, so I did this Lava Tube 3 by myself.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes

Mammoth Lava Tubes
This picture is looking from the Tube 3 exit back to the main entrance of Mammoth Cave.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Tube 3 Exit from inside.

The first part of the tube is fairly tight. You can just barely see daylight from the exit in the picture below.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Tube 3 is about 4 to 5 feet tall, so you're hunched over most of the time.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

This passage is interesting because the lava has several different colors: tan, white, and black.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Approaching the main entrance.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes

Tara met me at the main entrance.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
The main entrance looking at Tube 3.

Saturday morning, we had the whole place to ourselves. Bet you can't guess which car is ours.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
The upper entrance.
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Tara standing below the upper entrance at the convergence of Tubes 1, 2 and 4.

Before we headed out, I wanted to explore the last lava tube. Tara waited in the entrance, while I braved the unknown.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Tube 4 was extremely wet. The ground had several inches of standing water in places. I hopped from rock to rock to log as far as I could go.

Mammoth Lava Tubes

Since I didn't bring a spare pair of shoes, I had to turn back before I got to the end of the tunnel. Consequently, I have no idea how far Tube 4 goes and if there is an exit to the surface. We tried walking the surface for a bit but never found the exit.

Mammoth Lava Tubes
Mammoth Lava Tubes
Muddy footprints several inches deep.
Mammoth Lava Tubes

Mammoth Cave was a lot of fun, and we plan on going back.

Trip Report: August 9, 2013


Mammoth Lava Tubes August 2013 at EveryTrail

We took the 11-year-old Scouts to Mammoth Cave as part of our August camp out. On the trip were Jeremy Dye, Jake Bearnson, Elijah Wagner, Dylan Prince, and Reese Barnes.

Here is a quick video of the trip.

Mammoth Cave

We let the boys decide which lava tube to explore first. They chose Tube #2.

Mammoth Cave
Dylan, Elijah, and Reese in the upper entrance.
Mammoth Cave
Inside Lava Tube #2.

Before long, the lava tube gor pretty small, and soon we were on our hands and knees.

Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
A ray of sunlight coming through the roof.
Mammoth Cave
The exit to Tube #2 from the inside.
Mammoth Cave
The exit to Tube #2 from the outside.
Mammoth Cave

Then we walked back to the main entrance and explored Lava Tube #3.

Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave

Lava Tube #3 is fairly tall for most of the way. You may have to stoop, but there isn't any crawling until the last 10 feet.

Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
A cave cricket.
Mammoth Cave
A bat.
Mammoth Cave
The exit to Lava Tube #3.
Mammoth Cave
Elijah coming out Lava Tube #3
Mammoth Cave
Reese coming out Lava Tube #3.

Then after another walk to the main entrance, we next explored Lava Tube #1.

Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave
Dylan at the start of Lava Tube #1.
Mammoth Cave
Elijah, Reese, and Dylan in Lava Tube #1.

The exit to Lava Tube #1 was very muddy, so we returned via the lava tube.

And once again, Lava Tube #4 was extremely muddy, so we were not able to explore it very far.

The boys had a blast exploring the lava tubes. When we were all done, we piled in the cars and drove to the Duck Creek Ice Cave.

Trip Report: June 14, 2015